CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 7

(continued from page 1) FROM

THE PRESIDENT

Maybe chasing down this reference, clicking
on this link, reading a favorite poem to clear
my head, looking up this verb to see where
else it shows up in the Tanach, might lead me
somewhere.
My college thesis advisor used to urge us to
always look to the right and to the left of the
book we were pulling from the open stacks-he
said never to come back with only the volume
you went to retrieve. He called it "vagrant
scholarship," and praised it as the highest form.
One discouraged afternoon while on sabbatical
at Harvard Divinity School, I was in the stacks
searching for a translation of Yaakov Tzvi
Mecklenburg's Haketav v'Hakabbala because I
was struggling mightily with the Hebrew. I pulled
a volume from the shelf and then noticed the
dedication page: "In memory of Rabbi Jacob
Philip Rudin, Class of 1924, established by his
loving family." I was looking for Mecklenburg, but
my grandfather showed up. I'm pretty sure that

whatever I found that day did not make it into my
term paper. But what a light shone in the stacks
that winter afternoon, and that was all I needed.
The Talmud gives us the phrase "I am searching
for what I have not lost" (BT Shabbat 152a); in
vagrant scholarship, we rejoice to find what we
didn't know we were looking for.
But what to keep of the early drafts and unused
notes? Sometimes we want to take the Marie
Kondo approach: come up with a nice farewell
blessing, delete/dispose, and move on.
I have a deeply imperfect non-system: I keep
past High Holy Day notes in files simply labeled
by year. Some years I circle back to those files,
some years I don't. This year, I made good use
of a quotation I had scribbled in 2014. Manguso
tosses a lot, but keeps the following files on
her computer: "Works in Progress" for anything
she thinks might grow into a piece of its own
someday; "Under the House" for "sentimental

items I can't quite part with but don't exactly want
to look at"; and "Cuts": items might move from
the "Cuts" file to the "Work in Progress" file or,
more likely, just get deleted.
But on the eleventh of Tishrei, it's worth noting
that the question of the piles isn't just about
our rabbinic craft. After all, we have just
finished ten days in which we assert the value of
remembering, for a while, the rough drafts of our
intentions and behaviors, the unrefined moments,
the things we didn't get quite right-as rabbis and
as human beings.
Some we will toss out, and good riddance. And
some we will file away, for light and wisdom on
an unsuspecting afternoon. That's the blessing of
the notes and drafts, on our laptops and in our
lives: they teach us something, and you never
know what wisdom will float back up for blessing.

MARAM
Yom Kippur eve; Friday afternoon, a few minutes
before Shabbat. The last remaining drivers rush
home or to the synagogue. In a few minutes
time, the only cars that will keep moving will be
emergency vehicles and medical services. There
is no law against driving; it is a remaining of a
social and cultural consensus within the Israeli
society that voluntarily shaped the public sphere
within the Jewish majority in Israel. Secular
and religious Jews, the masses that go to the
synagogues and those who remained at home,
shared the wish to create a unique, sanctified
atmosphere on that day, to be together in
different ways, to enhance once a year a different
negotiation with their Jewish identity.
Very little remained from this voluntary, wide
consensus. Yom Kippur is still a day of standstill.
Streets in all Jewish towns are still pedestrianonly for 24 hours. A sense of introspection and
holiness still prevails. But beyond that surface
Israeli society faces these days enormous, shaking
challenges. Israeli government celebrated the
fiftieth anniversary-Yovel-of the "liberation of
Judea and Samaria" and the settlers' movement
there. For other Israelis it is the fiftieth anniversary
of devastative occupation, threatening to bring
the Zionist idea to a dreadful end. The fabrics
of Israeli democracy are loosening by the day

by governmental legal initiatives as well as
by the deteriorating public discourse. Israel's
sense of caring for the well-being of the Jewish
people around the world and its responsibility
to K'lal Yisrael becomes questionable through
our leaders' attitude to the needs and rights of
liberal Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. Political
corruption, intensively investigated by the police
in numerous instances, goes together with
a problematic attitude in regard to political
developments around the globe-in America,
Europe, and elsewhere-which most liberal Jews
find destructive and frightening.
Yom Kippur is in no way a day of cozy negligence
and denial. We stop for 24 hours to remember,
to widen horizons, to acknowledge reality in the
sincerest manner, to confront the mitzvah, to face
our God. Gathering in the synagogues should
lead us to a higher commitment, to a clearer
sight, to a fresh and distinctive understanding
of our duty. In more than sixty synagogues and
minyanim around the country Reform rabbis
delivered this message, each in her or his own
way. We told the people that raising us to the
height of spirituality and sanctity, from Kol Nidrei
to N'ilah, should be a means, a working-tool
for the entire year. In Kol Haneshamah, one
of the largest Reform congregations in Israel,

7

almost thousand participants listened with full
heart and soul to their new rabbi, Yael Karrie,
who urged them to adopt the understanding that
transgression [‫ ]עריינות‬means, among others, being
stuck in the past [‫]עבר‬, the inability to transact a
freeing gesture, to remember in order to change,
to meet that which is now purely factual and
unchangeable in order to determine that which is
up to our decisions, responsibilities, free deeds.
After twenty-four hours the shofar blew all around
the Jewish world. The Israeli Reform rabbinate
started anew the struggle for a better Israeli
society, more Jewish and democratic, humanistic
and egalitarian, grounded in our tradition and
free to determine our present and future in front
of God. In a few weeks, the Israel Rabbinic
Program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion in Jerusalem will mark the
ordination of its hundreth graduate. More than
120 Israeli rabbis-including the newly ordained
four rabbis-will continue to commit themselves
to this struggle, will continue to believe that
hand-in-hand with their sisters and brothers in
the worldwide Progressive rabbinate, they will be
able to introduce new hopes, new beliefs, new
responsibilities, and to heal the largest and most
vibrant Jewish community.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017

CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 1
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 2
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 3
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 4
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - Insert1
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - Insert2
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 5
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 6
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 7
CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 8
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